Imperial Dispatch: Episode 3
Being an ongoing series wherein CSW host and presenter Brian holds forth on news of the day, idle thoughts, and such like.
Fan Theories, part the Third
Hero Worship Shouldn’t Make Our Heroes Idiots.
I was asked not long ago by a friend of a friend in her 20s if I “knew what Tumblr is.” I am in my forties, and apparently that’s out of the age range for the young folks to safely assume I am hip to their lingo, with their ice cream socials and their sock hops. But as I told her, “I am FROM the Internet!” I asked her, joking, if she knew what Compuserve is. What a BBS is. What a dial up modem sounds like. In short, I have been on this internet for as long as it has been a thing. And in all that time I have always found the corners of the internet where people discuss Star Wars. We all see the news, of course. You have friends who share Star Wars links to your feed and you chuckle politely and click “Like,” not telling them that you read it three days ago and have seen it twelve times since. But one thing friends don’t often find are the lesser publicised fan theories, which I’m sure you’ve all seen as well. As we launch this ongoing column, I’m sharing with you my three (using the word loosely) “favourite” fan theories. We’ve covered who Snoke is, and who Rey’s parents might be, and today I share with you perhaps my least favourite and most easily debunked: the notion that Han Solo killed himself.
The theory states, plainly enough, that Han is the one who activated Ren’s lightsaber on the catwalk in Starkiller Base. That Han killed himself, Snapelike, to prevent Kylo Ren from becoming a patricide. The rationale behind this has been offered as a couple different options. Perhaps Han knew that by killing his father Kylo Ren would be irretrievably lost to the Dark Side, and Han wished to spare him that. Perhaps Han knew that Leia could never forgive Ren for killing Han, and Han wanted there to be a rapprochement between the two, or at least the possibility thereof. Lastly, I have seen posited that Han was willing to help Kylo Ren, as he told him, and that killing himself was just helping Ren accomplish his goal. That’s the least plausible of them all, but each in its own way does a disservice to the character of Han Solo, while being drawn from a place of love for the character.
Let’s discuss the notion that Han didn’t want Kylo to be lost to the Dark Side and therefore killed himself ‘for’ Ren. This is a charming notion based entirely in too many readings of “Half Blood Prince,” but it really doesn’t have root in the character. Han Solo is above all else a survivor. Killing himself is against his every instinct regardless. But moreover: he’s just met up with Leia again. He’s making a crazy mission against the First Order for the benefit of the Resistance and the Galaxy at large. He can’t have been planning to go back into obscurity after this. He knows from personal experience that this fight is one that he’s going to be in. Removing himself from that fight, before his mission is even complete, is completely antithetical to the Han we know from the Original Trilogy. He is a scoundrel, he is a thief, but he is at heart a good man and a fighter. I just can’t believe that man would kill himself for some philosophical uncertainty, knowing what that death would do to Leia.
Let’s next discuss the idea that Han killed himself to keep Ren from taking an unforgivable step which would prevent Leia from ever forgiving him. That is quite simply dismissed by the fact that no one except Han himself would know he did it. His sacrifice would be meaningless because Leia wouldn’t know it happened unless Ren told her about it, which presupposes a conversation that she wouldn’t have, because she would still think Ren killed Han.
That last one, about Han just wanting to help, defeats itself on its own merit. I ought to spare you discussion; it should be obvious. Of course Han wouldn’t kill himself to help Ren out. He wouldn’t want Ren to achieve the goal of killing Han. He wouldn’t want to die. He wouldn’t do anything or make any decision which supports that notion. So we’ll set that down.
Of course all of these are debunked best not by my diatribes, and not by reasoning logic or debating character traits. They are all most easily debunked by one sentence in the novel The Force Awakens, to wit a sentence in Chapter XVII:
“Then, as the light from outside was fully blocked by the flow of descending, accumulating dark energy, Ren ignited the lightsaber – and the fiery red beam lanced outward to pierce Han’s chest from front to back.” The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster
Did you catch that? It’s subtle, but it’s there. Read it over again, and I think you’ll see the line I’m talking about.
Which is not to say that these theories come from a poor understanding of the character necessarily. They come from the same place that Lucas’ change making Greedo shoot first. They come from a place of wanting Han to be a better person than he is. They want him to be heroic any way they can, but he’s simply not that guy. And these theories I’ve shared with you don’t make him a hero in any case. They make him, if they had any shred of veracity to them, a chump. A good chump, and a noble one, but I think at the end of the day Han Solo is not a chump.
If you’ve not read the novel of Episode VII you definitely should. Foster’s writing is of course far better than mine, so I’ll spare you my reasoning, but trust me that the discussion and internal monologue within Ren before and after his patricide are worth the price of the book alone.
And when you think about it, that act bears dark and promising tidings. There are only three other patricides in Star Wars (all Legends sources, but nonetheless): Vitiate, the Sith Emperor who lived for a thousand years killed his father as a child. Bane, the founder of the Rule of Two and progenitor of the Sith Lineage which led to the fall of the Jedi, killed his father as well, albeit unintentionally. And lastly, perhaps most auspiciously, Palpatine himself killed his father quite early in his career, after which he was free to embark on the path of the Sith.
So it’s looking pretty good for the new kid, if he can get his head straight and not let girl troubles distract him.
Thanks for reading this episode of Imperial Dispatch. Brian Karasek can be found discussing Star Wars on channelstarwars.com, both YouTube and Podcasts. Find us on iTunes and subscribe on YouTube!